Monday, November 30, 2015

GodPuff

I've been thinking a bit about the way that jigglypuff is played. I guess in spirit this is a followup post to the Questions for Puff Mains to Consider post having had more time to consider and experiment.

1st posit:
By the data, Jigglypuff can barely be considered viable.
As is, this character sucks (or at least Jigglypuff players do, and what is the difference?) Disregarding public opinion and looking instead at Jigglypuff’s broader tournament success she is borderline unviable. While it’s easy to dismiss the claim with appeals to a small sample size that shrinks dramatically the more stringently you judge by skill, I think that such an appeal would be backwards. Melee has a wonderful built-in and objective feedback mechanic called the results screen. Every win and loss is reflective of two players’ decisions. Every result is earned. If you don’t make it out of pools it’s because your holistic gameplan wasn’t good enough to make it out of pools. If you get 9th at a regional that means that your holistic gameplan was not good enough to get top 8. If you can’t break into top 100 then your holistic gameplan is not good enough to get top 100. Jigglypuff players have very underwhelming results that reflect very underwhelming gameplans. Her “meta” as widely understood simply hasn’t been able to support widespread success.


So what's holding (your) puff back?

In order to dramatically change (your) Jigglypuff’s results, you must dramatically change your gameplan.

For many Puff players, the first and easiest methodology is to focus on execution. Every missed input is a missed opportunity. Jigglypuff’s success depends on taking advantage of small opportunities. Missing them forfeits success. In the same vein, every dropped or suboptimal punish is a missed opportunity. Jigglypuff has a number of weaknesses, but her punish game is not among them. Yet Jigglypuff players, with few exceptions, have shitty ass punish games.

* Where are your flowcharts? Do you know what to do vs what DI in even the most common scenarios?
Falcons have been doing this shit since before Scar was considered a good player. How can you expect yourself to execute punishes if you are counting on blind luck to even identify what they are? How are you using your playtime? Are you playing smart or are you playing hard? One of those is going to cause improvement, the other will cause you to stagnate. Figure out your character’s flowcharts. 20xx exists in addition to youtube, there’s no excuse for ignorance. If this is too hard for you then you've located the essence of your limitation.

* Where do your punishes start? What hits are feasible to land in what situations? Are you playing in a way to enable your punish game or are you simply waiting for your opponent to hand them to you? They might not be so nice. What then?

This brings about a second line of thinking that’s a little bit less straightforward.


Root Optimization

I like 20GX not because they are optimizing falcon's punishes (that can be taken for granted) but because at the very beginning Gravy looked at Captain Falcon's unique properties and rebuilt his whole gameplan/attitude from the ground up. It's similar because the stuff that works still works but they make different decisions than Darkrain does because they’ve looked for situational and character-specific properties (ex: full analog control from any position via pivots) then started rebuilding everything from there. The result is a nuanced playstyle rich in tactics and strategies that all of the best falcon players are pulling from.

If we operate under the assumption that more of the same will only produce more of the same results then it’s obvious that Jigglypuff can benefit from a similar kind of rebuilding. In order to arrive at the best gameplan, Puff’s strategies need to some degree to be rebuilt after examining her core advantages, many of which are unique and unintuitive to the rest of the cast.

Off the top of my head puff's biggest strength (other than being immune to some things like combos or stage control) is her insane aerial mobility. You have enough control to make a decision, change your mind, then change your mind again. That's ridiculous.
A problem is that your horizontal mobility is sort of on a timer. You are only relevant for as long as you are a) in the air and b) at the correct height, meaning that you have to jump at the right time and depending on the situation might not be actively threatening anything in the time between jumps. Most often this problem is softened (but not eliminated) by using the threat of bair to purchase enough space to land/double jump. In the worst cases this strat results in predictable/exploitable patterns that give up stage control/relevancy. It loses harshly to run up shield and thus depends heavily on (largely reactable) empty land grabs to remain even decent. Alternatively, I propose that the timer problem can be converted into a strength by thinking about and practicing a larger variety of methods to prolong/reset range effectiveness (SH bair DJ, ledgecancels,wavelands, etc) and by thinking about puff's threat range as diagonal instead of horizontal. No one has perfected this because it’s very complicated and any single technique has drawbacks if done predictably or at a bad time but the sheer wealth of angles available to puff at any given time is incredible and deserves fine attention. Additionally, in many situations puff's mobility can allow her to cover multiple options but only if she jumps preemptively at a strict timing (ex: covering an in place option with an early crossup bair, then grabbing/resting should they roll with your jump). Sometimes Puffs will do this intuitively but it can be better taken advantage of if examined consciously.


Earning Your Openings

PPMD says that puff's biggest problem is that she can't approach. I agree. Puff's punish game can be improved (a lotttttt) but that’s just a matter of course. Neutral is not so easy and is a more fundamental problem. Any time I see a puff fall apart it's because they're being forced to approach and just can't do it. She just can't pin fox down, can't adjust her spacing horizontally or vertically from no commitment as well as the fox can (note: while this issue exists in other MUs vs fox is by far the worst. I don’t think it’d be all that problematic if fox didn’t exist or didn’t have a gun). Over the course of his career Hungrybox has devoted much of his effort into identifying ways to avoid approaching altogether with mixed results. In every case it requires a lead. In many it requires a stupid opponent. While avoiding the issue entirely in this way is clearly beneficial, I’m unconvinced that it’s the the singular solution that it gets treated like.

(This is mostly verbally. People have a hard time navigating their own cognitive biases. Your perception of your records on stages is much different than the reality in numbers. Etc. It’s difficult to accurately track the success of any tactic without watching vids back with a notebook. In this way I think that the inadequacy of puff’s neutral and dependence on camping is greatttly exaggerated by virtue of ease of perception. It is easy to identify planking. It is easy to talk about planking. It is ultimately easy to solve planking. It is much more difficult to perceive and to work out options from different positions and tempos on stage. If Puff players aren’t willing to do that then it’s no wonder that they struggle and fall back to jumping away. If Puff players don't recognize their neutral wins via selective abstraction or by ignorance of followups then it's no wonder they don't abuse their frequency.)

I think that the same problem can be solved better with what has been called "Incremental Spacing" and with FOOTSIES. At it's simplest, FGC footsies is the triangle of options Whiff Punish beats Poke beats Walk Forward beats Whiff Punish. With the primacy of pokes and the sheer strength of puff's whiff punish game it is easy to neglect a walk forward game or to write it off as too complicated/difficult. This is to your Puff's severe disadvantage.

I think that the majority of Puff’s problems disappear with strong footsies (i.e. identifying, solving, predicting, and executing mixup scenarios). In this way I think that Jigglypuff is in all honesty a relatively weak character choice UNTIL you are able and willing to be the smarter player, at which point she is S-tier. Her outstanding punish and unique positional options create mixup opportunities that when played correctly frequently result in insta-kills. In order to take full advantage of these mixups you must use a) clearly defined setups (ex: Puff on Shield) and b) active prediction. I don't think that anyone has committed much to either. They're too busy floating around waiting for their instincts to tell them what to do. You can and should literally kill someone for predicting when they will sit in shield. You can and you should kill or combo someone for predicting how they will move. Stop playing a 1-player game of "zone with bair until they walk into me or I feel like nairing" and and acknowledge the opponent making decisions in front of you.

In order to whiff punish, a Street Fighter player has to have tested (and practiced) which normals are useful to punish which normals with at which ranges. Do Puff players know any of that? Heck no, we guess from moment to moment. So how can we expect anyone to practice whiff punishing (and subsequently following things up) in different scenarios? Eventually I want to have notes like I have for on shield vs all common options. I boiled grounded shieldpokes down to two simple pokes that compliment each other and grab. Similar, simple systems exist all over the whole game. They just need identified then practiced.

Footsies start where tactics end. When we don't have or know of a tactic to win a situation (i.e. low tiers automatically lose to bair, falcon automatically loses to crouch, etc) then we HAVE to predict and punish (much much much beefier and easier punishes if you're waiting for something. Not jumping habitually after a fireball but actively looking for the fireball, hearing him go "HADO—" and jumping. Gotcha bitch. Jumping after the "KEN" might be too late. Maybe puff is slow enough that you need to jump before they do. With a prediction that's ok!). Luckily for us jigglypuff is a freakin god at it. Perfect mobility. Perfect options.

Bair is an AMAZINGGGGG tool because generally speaking you risk nothing meaningful by committing to it but they have to give you information every time you throw it out. You need information to make predictions and EVERY BAIR IS FREE INFORMATION. It's not a poke, it's not for zoning, it's for information. Isn't that crazy? Even empty jumps can be treated like that because if you get nervous you can just fill it with bair or jump away and start creeping back to center over again. No big deal. Because you don't care about stage control (via being able to use the air off stage as part of your “aerial dash dance”) you have as long as you like to figure your guy out (exception being fox because you're potentially taking damage the whole time from lasers. However that just puts you on a shorter timer, doesn't make this less true). But I think that you should be willing to actively figure him out, then blow his shit up off of predictions. I think that’s Jigglypuff’s strongest methodology but it takes a smart and dedicated player, not the pussy bitch cowards that get attracted to her because upthrow rest is easy and bair saves them from having to think.

Look at your character. Look at her tools. Change your gameplan. Change your results.

1 comment:

  1. great post. This very issue of not acknowledging my opponent is why I've put puff to the side for the next while. I'm just doing a 'borp shiek' because of a hand injury and working on non-technical fundamentals. It's working pretty well. I'm seeing tech chasing much more clearly and am punishing approaches really well for the first time.

    I feel like i'm really playing the game and can't wait to have my hands back to playable shape.

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